Parodying Academic Blogging
(x-posted to The Valve)
In the spirit of the MLAde 2007, produced by two very funny UC Irvine grad students and distributed, guerrilla-style, around the conference, I’m pleased to present this parody of academic blogging, entitled “My Story.”
A lot of people, almost none of whom read blogs, and one of whom sent most of his confidential information via e-mail to Nigeria, have asked me how I got into blogging. So I thought I’d blog my answer out loud to the blogosphere. After all, today is Sunday through Thursday, and it’s time for my Blogging About Blogging Sundays Through Thursdays. (But don’t worry, Existential Despair About Capitalism Friday is just four days off!) My story is a lot like other stories about learning to use a very simple web template, and you can read those other stories here and here and here and here and here and here and here.
I guess you could say that some part of me was always a blogger, just as some people know that from birth that they are meant to be accountants or customer service representatives. It began when I was very little; when my parents left me alone in the house, I would watch episodes of television programs on DVD, while feeling terrifically anxious about not doing my reading. I was very much a “boy’s boy,” but still, I would catch myself fantasizing about the feel of tweed against my skin; I would thumb through the glossies, dreaming of the latest Parisian fashions, even though my mother could not afford simulacra, and had to make do with cheap imitations. I would creep upstairs to our attic, to the old dresser my father kept up there, and reach around in the bottom drawer until I found his collection of New Yorker magazines. I didn’t really understand everything I was reading, because we lived in Boise and I was reading the “Talk of the Town,” but the images and words consumed me like a secret fire. I wrote a short story, “Adultery,” and then a poem called “Lonely Cabbages, 1993,” which I posted here after it was rejected by the editors of the New Yorker, as well as many, many other editors, many times.
As the DVDs for Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer gradually yielded to those containing Season 4, and the space of years made me older and bolder, I began to play with dolls. They were shaped like postmodern theorists, and I found them “hilariously campy.” Under my covers, long after my official bedtime, I would set up little conferences, where I would force the Alain Badiou doll to give a talk entitled “I’m In UR Auditorium Repeating My Book For UR Stipend,” and then I would ask him questions. My questions were long, thought-provoking, and remarkably similar to my dissertation. I felt like the only person in all Idaho brave enough to be ending my questions with periods, and saying “Well, I guess this isn’t really a question per se.”
After this had gone on for a while, I began to wonder who was really listening to the little conferences I held with the postmodernist dolls in my bedroom. It felt like I didn’t have much of an audience, aside from one or two specialists also working in my field who were, in this case, made out of plastic. I wondered if there were other people like me, people who cared above all about serious scholarship, and whether, like me, they wanted to prove it by writing about popular films and beach trips under assumed names. I already had my assumed name all picked out – it was a German word meaning “of or relating to Derrida,” because he is one thinker you have to read in the original German. I modified it, though, so that it was also a pun on three Elvis Costello albums. It took a mere fortnight of continuous effort to pick my blog title, my blog name, my blog epigraph, my blog picture, and my blog design scheme, plus one more day to remove all references to money laundering from my publicly linked MySpace page.
I remember all the milestones. I remember the first time a commenter showed up to tell me about how useless literary critics were compared to writers. “Those who can’t do, teach,” he wrote, starting a wonderful conversation that has continued, ceaselessly, after every single post, to this very day. What I like about him is that he is the people, the real people, not some bloodless academic; he’s like Tiny Tim, and I am like Charles Dickens, giving him the crutches he needs to walk the walk of the learned. Other examples of the salt of the earth who have learned to use my comment box include a schizophrenic person, whose discursive universe is a play of absences and misspellings, and the person who has always had just about enough of me and my blog, for going on two years. I also like the fact that these folks click on my advertising banners, although that may be an accident, since I Advertise Liberally, meaning that ads cover about 65% of the screen. I remember the first time I used the word fuck, in my post “Fuck All The Fucking Bullshit, I’ve Been Reading About Fucking Punk.” I thought that would get me fired from my Ph.D. program, forcing me to earn a living by blogging, but it didn’t, and neither did my post “Things We Think But Do Not Say.”
But, in the end, there’s something very simple that keeps me blogging, and that is a truth that might even sound a little sentimental, but so what, it’s a blog: what I can really write about is how I’m having trouble with my writing. My best days blogging are the ones where I can’t even add one solitary preposition to my half-finished sentence on page 63 of Chapter 4, “Tristam Shandy and the Anti-Topographical Comic,” all of which I chronicled in the post “One Solitary Preposition.” So yes, I’m now in my seventh year of blogging, but allow me this indulgence: I like to call it Season 7, Part 1. It’s the season where the writers got together and deconstructed everything you thought was happening. Beat that, Lawrence Sterne, you stuffy old academic. (I will continue my series of posts on Tristram Shandy and Habermas tomorrow.)